Background/Question/Methods Canada's forests cover nearly 350 million ha and play a globally significant role in climate stability and biodiversity conservation. They also support a forest industry that directly employs >200,000 workers and generates CAD$33 billion in exports annually. Canada continues to draw international criticism for harvesting practices, in part due to declines of high-profile species such as woodland caribou in the boreal forest as well as concerns about general biodiversity loss in globally unique forest types such as temperate rainforests. Nearly all of Canada's merchantable forests are subject to legislation and/or voluntary certification schemes that demand sustainable forestry. I reviewed the risks and benefits of sustainable forest management practices in relation to Canada's ongoing efforts to recover species at risk.
Results/Conclusions Forest-dwelling species are most imperilled by conversion of forests to other land uses and are affected by indirect stressors unrelated to primary forest management activities (e.g., species shifts with climate change, edge effects caused by adjacent land uses). However, sustainable forest management practices contribute to species-at-risk management by reserving areas with exceptional conservation values (e.g., old forest, riparian areas), protecting specific sites and features (e.g., mineral licks, snags, vernal pools), and by modifying harvesting and silviculture treatments (e.g., within-block retention, coarse woody debris management, adaptive stocking standards), where necessary. While generally considered positive, the benefits of these practices are rarely evaluated for specific species at risk. There are practical reasons for this gap, such as the difficulty of conducting randomized controlled trials at scale on multiple use landscapes, and the challenge of acquiring timely feedback from adaptive management trials conducted in slow-growing, northern forests. But feasible and scalable strategies to assess the effectiveness of sustainable forest management practices are urgently required as species-at-risk concerns escalate, climate envelopes shift, and the demand for sustainably sourced wood products increases.